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NEW CALEDONIA: Evacuation flights to rescue stranded tourists

NEW CALEDONIA: Evacuation flights to rescue stranded tourists

French authorities have cleared two Australian Government flights to rescue stranded Australian tourists. New Caledonia has experienced political protests that blocked roads and made the La Tontouta International Airport inoperable.

a tall building under construction with Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in the background
Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre New Caledonia [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Cause of civil unrest in New Caledonia

The civil unrest is a result of the French legislature in Paris proposing amending the French constitution. The constitutional change affects the eligibility of French citizens to vote in the next referendum on New Caledonian (Kanaky) independence. This has caused outrage with the local Kanak indigenous population in the French overseas territory.

The Kanak population is outraged by the move, demonstrating their anger through the looting of shops and food outlets. The highway between the capital Noumea and the Airport has been damaged hindering those stranded getting to the airport.

If you are affected

Australians affected in New Caledonia should register with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) so they can be contacted regarding the rescue flights. You can register with DFAT here.

a sign on a building
La Tontouta International Airport 2018 [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Further flights

The tweet indicates that further flights will be planned as needed. Roughly 300 Australians are stranded on the island. The airport has been shuttered during the unrest.

a bed with a white blanket and a red chair in a room
Le Meridien Hotel in Noumea, New Caledonia 2018 [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

2PAXfly Takeout

The indigenous Kanak population has long sought independence from France, and France has held a series of referenda about independence that have been narrowly lost.

The proposed change to the constitution would change voting eligibility, allowing more non-Kanak French citizens to be eligible to vote. This is a typical political move to reduce the chances of the success of the next referendum.

New Caledonia is wonderful to visit, and the Kanaks are a warm and welcoming community – unlike some of the non-indigenous residents, who at times demonstrate a level of racism that I found shocking.

I hope that the current unrest resolves itself quickly, without gendarmes brutalising the community.

The indigenous Kanaks have a right to self-determination, and the French government seems to have learnt little from its horrendous colonial history.

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